Biden taps Ketanji Brown Jackson for Supreme Court

The Federal appeals court judge to be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court



Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. — AP
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. — AP

By AP

Published: Fri 25 Feb 2022, 7:52 PM

President Joe Biden will nominate federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, the White House said, making her the first Black woman selected to serve on a court that once declared her race unworthy of citizenship and endorsed segregation.

In Jackson, Biden delivers on a campaign promise to make the historic appointment and to further diversify a court that was made up entirely of white men for almost two centuries. He has chosen an attorney who would be the high court’s first former public defender, though she also possesses the elite legal background of other justices.

Jackson would be the current court’s second Black justice — Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative, is the other — and just the third in history.

Biden planned to introduce Jackson in remarks at the White House on Friday afternoon, where Jackson was also expected to speak, the White House said.

She would also be only the sixth woman to serve on the court, and her confirmation would mean that for the first time four women would sit together on the nine-member court.

The current court includes three women, one of whom is the court’s first Latina, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Jackson would join the liberal minority of a conservative-dominated court that is weighing cutbacks to abortion rights and will be considering ending affirmative action in college admissions and restricting voting rights efforts to increase minority representation.

Biden is filling the seat that will be vacated by Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, who is retiring at the end of the term this summer.

Jackson, 51, once worked as one of Breyer’s law clerks early in her legal career. She attended Harvard as an undergraduate and for law school, and served on the US Sentencing Commission, the agency that develops federal sentencing policy, before becoming a federal judge in 2013.

Her nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority by a razor-thin 50-50 margin with Vice-President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. Party leaders have promised swift but deliberate consideration of the president’s nominee.

The next justice will replace one of the more liberal justices, so she would not tip the balance of the court, which now leans 6-3 in favour of conservatives.

The news comes two years to the day after Biden, then struggling to capture the Democratic presidential nomination, first pledged in a South Carolina debate to nominate a Black woman to the high court if presented with a vacancy.

“Everyone should be represented,” Biden said. “We talked about the Supreme Court — I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a black woman on the Supreme Court to make sure we in fact get everyone represented.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin has said that he wants the Senate to move quickly on the nomination. Senators have set a tentative goal of confirmation by April 8, when they leave for a two-week spring recess. Hearings could start as soon as mid-March.

That timeline could be complicated by a number of things, including the ongoing developments between Russia and Ukraine and the extended absence of Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, who suffered a stroke last month and is out for several weeks. Democrats would need Lujan’s vote to confirm Biden’s pick if no Republicans support her.

Once the nomination is sent to the Senate, it is up to the Senate Judiciary Committee to vet the nominee and hold confirmation hearings. After the committee approves a nomination, it goes to the Senate floor for a final vote.

The entire process passes through several time-consuming steps, including meetings with individual senators that are expected to begin next week. While Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed just four weeks after she was nominated ahead of the 2020 election, the process usually takes several weeks longer than that.

Biden and Senate Democrats are hoping for a bipartisan vote on the nomination, but it’s unclear if they will be able to win over any GOP senators after three bitterly partisan confirmation battles under President Donald Trump. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of three Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson to the appeals court last year, had pushed Biden to nominate a different candidate from his home state, Judge J. Michelle Childs. He said earlier this month that his vote would be “very problematic” if it were anyone else.

Jackson was on the president’s short list as a potential nominee even before Breyer retired. Biden and his team spent weeks poring over her records, interviewing her friends and family and looking into her background.


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